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Pike, Willson parents amass frequent flier miles

FARGO -- On game days, many parents of North Dakota State football players get in their car and drive the however-many-hours to the Fargodome. The travel schedules of Mike and Pam Pike and Craig and Diana Willson take a little more planning.

They are frequent flier parents of safety John Pike and linebacker Chad Willson, respectively, and it's turning out the memories are far greater than the miles. Winning helps -- the Bison host Georgia Southern Saturday at 1:30 in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

Two NDSU tailgaters even adopted-of-sorts the Willsons and were each given a signed team football that Chad orchestrated.

"We've been so overwhelmed by the fans and the way people have embraced Chad and us," Diana Willson said. "It's really been a great experience all around."

The Willsons have the travel routine down. They board a Delta Air Lines flight on late Friday afternoon in Salt Lake City for the direct shot to Fargo. They stay at the Candlewood Suites adjacent to the dome and catch the early 5 a.m. Sunday flight back to Salt Lake City.

They're back home in Layton, Utah, usually before 9 a.m. on Sunday. So far, the flight schedules have been on time and smooth.

Same goes for the Pikes, who take advantage of the Allegiant Air route from Mesa, Ariz., to Fargo. They also have relatives in the area, so every game has been like a mini-family reunion of cousins and second cousins.

Because of the week-to-week nature of the playoffs, the Pikes are flying Southwest Airlines to Minneapolis and driving to Fargo this weekend.

"I play better with my parents and family in the stands. It's been like that ever since high school," John Pike said. "I'm very grateful they can make it out there and watch me play."

Those were the same words from Chad Willson, who has always been on successful teams. Craig, who coached Chad in youth football, figures his son has lost 12 games in his life.

Chad played two years at Snow Junior College (Utah). When looking at four-year schools, there were two options: University of Utah and NDSU. Craig said he voted for Utah because it was close. Chad and Diana voted for NDSU, he said.

"But I told him like I've told all the kids I've coached: 'You have to go where they want you because they want you for a reason,'" Craig said. "North Dakota State wanted him so bad."

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communication Co.